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'This has been here since the 1940s': High levels of radioactive lead found at Jana Elementary School

An independent study shows the elementary school has radioactivity in its cafeteria, library, boiler room and areas of the playground.

FLORISSANT, Mo. — After nearly a century of waiting, an independent study found Jana Elementary School is contaminated with high levels of radioactive lead.

The study said, "The test results indicate high levels of radioactive lead, Pb 210 found in the following areas:

  • Inside the Jana Elementary school building (specifically on the cafeteria fan, in the boiler room, and in the school library).
  • Jana Elementary school playground areas’ soil (specifically the kindergarten play area and near the basketball court area)."

This all points back to radioactive waste dumped in the nearby Coldwater Creek.

Radioactive material from bombs used in Japan during World War 2 has contaminated Coldwater Creek in North St. Louis County since the 1940s.

"We should be thinking about fundraisers and bake sales, but instead, we're worrying about bomb waste," Jana PTA President Ashley Bernaugh said.

Bernaugh sent the decades-delayed test findings in an email on Friday. 

"The time has passed. It's long passed. This has been here since the 1940s," she told 5 On Your Side in an interview.

With St. Louis' history in mind, advocates like Christen Commuso want changes for the future before it's too late.

"We're talking cancers so: Leukemia, bone cancer, lung cancer," Commuso said of the waste.

Bernaugh said she's confident the district will make the right steps.

"We are absolutely 100% committed that the school district needs to advocate for … this (getting) cleaned up immediately," she said.

The Hazelwood School District released a statement saying:

The Hazelwood School District is aware of the report regarding radioactive contamination at Jana Elementary. Safety is always our top priority, and we are actively discussing the implications of the findings. The Board of Education will be consulting with attorneys and experts in this area of testing to determine the next steps.

There is a Hazelwood School Board meeting Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 6:30 p.m. There, parents can show up to express their concerns and take part in conversations for safe and efficient cleanup.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the testing. However, it was an independent study that showed positive results for high levels of radioactivity.

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